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Banff football stalwart and young son among hundreds fighting to save Canal Park from Morrisons

Steven Hadden, Ray Skinner and Ray's four-year-old son Keane at Canal Park. Picture by Wullie Mair

Ray Skinner spent his childhood at Canal Park, watching from the sidelines in awe as his dad turned out for Banff Rovers.

As a teenager, he pulled on the club’s blue jersey for himself and embarked on a 16-year playing career which ended with him becoming the amateur team’s manager.

Now, Ray’s dreams of seeing his four-year-old son Keane follow the family tradition are hanging in the balance.

The 30-year-old is one of hundreds of locals fighting plans to pave over Canal Park and build a Morrisons supermarket there.

Local heroes fighting back

The common good land gifted to the area in 1907 forms part of a picturesque gateway to the historic town for people entering from Macduff.

It has been subject to debate for more than a decade, with Aberdeenshire Council earmarking it for development and exploring ways to sell it off.

In a display of community spirit reminiscent of the movie Local Hero, filmed about 10 miles away in Pennan, residents have now rallied to save Canal Park from the increasing threat.

Locals have banded together to fight the supermarket plans. Picture by Wullie Mair.

After finishing a training session, Ray told us how important the cherished spot is to him.

The floor-layer said: “It means a lot.

“My dad’s Rovers team took home heaps of trophies to Banff in the 1990s, to this pitch.

“I’ve come down here my whole life, I started playing at 14 and now I’m the Rovers manager.”

Hoisting up Keane into his arms, Ray added: “This is the future.

“He was telling me he was going to play on this pitch for Banff Rovers as well when he’s older.

“There are so many areas you could put a supermarket, why take something like this away from the town?”

Banff Rovers training on a sunny June evening at Canal Park. Picture by Wullie Mair

‘Teams will fold’

Fellow player, Steven Hadden, said the lack of similar affordable playing surfaces in the area could spell the end for some grassroots sides.

The 30-year-old British Gas engineer said: “Other options, like the astro turf in Macduff, are cost prohibitive for the majority of clubs.

“It’s not worth thinking about what will happen if we lose Canal Park.

“This pitch is essentially used every night over the summer. If it’s gone for a big eyesore supermarket, teams will fold.

“This is a massive part of Banff and it’s not just for football teams, it’s for everybody.”

Another local with emotional ties to the spot is Leona Foote, whose dad was captain of Rovers when the club formed in 1937.

Leona said: “I was born and brought up in Banff and it means a lot to me, the park has always been here for the good of the people.

“The Duke of Fife bought it away back to gift these acres to the community for recreational use, and that’s how it should be.

“It’s used constantly, so why here for a new supermarket? Why here?”

Rachel leading the charge

As the former manager of the nearby Duff House, Rachel Kennedy has an interest in preserving all that is special about Banff and is spearheading the campaign.

Rachel, who now runs an antique shop, said: “This is common good land, which should mean the community has ownership and nobody should be able to sell it unless locals want it sold.

“We understand how a spot just off the main road with such visibility is attractive to a supermarket, and there is nothing similar in the area.

“But I don’t think it is right to sell this land, which is so popular with locals, I’m frustrated about the whole process.”

Canal Park is the strip of land between the Deveronvale pitch and the Co-op shop. Picture by Wullie Mair

Supermarket would be ‘a horror’

Local historian Alistair Mason is on the committee for the Banff Preservation and Heritage Society.

He said: “We need to take a longer perspective on things, something that was a gift 100 years ago is the town’s forever.

“If we once lose it, we will never get it back.

“And to have large glass and concrete box here instead of this green space is a horror.”

Football training takes place often at Canal Park over summer. Picture by Wullie Marr

People can email canalparkconsultation@aberdeenshire.gov.uk with their thoughts, or take part in the online consultation by clicking here.

Aberdeenshire Council said the authority was “keen to hear as many views about the proposals as possible” and encouraged people to respond formally.

Morrisons was approached for comment.

Rachel, whose Facebook page Save Our Canal Park has almost 950 members, moved to the town from London 15 years ago and fell in love with it.

She said: “There’s hundreds of Morrisons shops everywhere, but there’s only one Banff.”

You can read more about the proposals here.

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